Although many people use the word “Laundromat” to generically refer to coin-operated laundries, the first washing machine for public use was actually called a “Washateria.”
An enterprising entrepreneur named J.F. Cantrell opened the first Washateria in Ft. Worth, Tex., on April 18, 1934, according to the book “Famous First Facts.”
The facility had four electric washing machines that customers could rent by the hour. Hot water and electricity were supplied, but users were obliged to bring their own soap.
The name “Laundromat” was first registered as a goods and services trademark by Westinghouse Electric Corp. in 1940. White Consolidated Industries Inc. acquired the trademark in 1975 when it purchased the major-appliance division of Westinghouse.
But White Consolidated, a Cleveland-based industrial and consumer products company, stopped making commercial laundry equipment about two years ago and no longer builds coin-operated laundries or markets commercial washers or dryers, according to H. Ted Fritz, vice president of Westinghouse brand management.
Westinghouse dropped out of the commercial laundry business, Fritz said, after Maytag and Speedqueen began to dominate the industry in the early 1980s.
Today the trademark name “Laundromat” is only being used on a new line of consumer laundry equipment, Fritz said. However, he noted, White Consolidated still has a European subsidiary making commercial laundry equipment, and White Consolidated has not ruled out the possibility of one day re-entering the commercial coin-operated laundry business.